An example of a trademark Guinness label
Publicans (the people who sell beer) and brewers (the people who make beer) have been linked together since the beginning of brewing history.
This link and symbiosis is especially true in Ireland. Under Brehon law in the 6th and 7th centuries, local kings were required to have their own brewer.
The brewer was never to have a dry ‘cauldron’ and their dwellings were to be on a crossroads in order to provide hospitality 24 hours a day to weary travellers and guests of the kingdom. This was the first law that mentioned the building that we now know as a pub.
As the laws in the land changed, so did the regulations with regards serving beer, but what did not change was the relationship between the people that owned these public houses and brewers.
In the late 19th century, thanks in part to the industrial revolution, beer was big business, and because of rail travel the licenced trade started to expand away from large towns and cities.
But with expansion into these more remote areas, publicans found themselves in financial difficulties. So many publicans relied on breweries to supply credit to them while they were expanding their businesses, a parallel practice that we still see in the licenced trade today.
The link between publicans and breweries did not end there, as most publicans were also bottling beers on the site of their pubs for the breweries.
Barrels of beer would be delivered to the pub and the publican would bottle the beer and put trademark labels on the bottles from the brewery.
The first recorded pub to be issued an official Guinness trade-mark label was Clarkes public house on Capel Street in Dublin in 1897. These labels also had the name of the publican printed on them, so customers knew who bottled the best Guinness.
This practice continued until 1968, but by 1974 wholesale bottling companies had completely taken over the bottle and labelling of Guinness and other beers, a practice now only undertaken by the breweries themselves.
Once the breweries took back control of the packaging of their products, they still relied on the publicans to sell their wares.
Fast forward to today and we see that many publicans have also become the brewers.
These businesses, known as brewpubs, are now seen in many of the cities, towns and villages across Ireland.
Publicans are going back to their bottling roots but this time they are investing in the machines and steel required to brew their own beer — not just bottle it.
This evolution makes sense; in an industry that has had to adapt to a rapidly-changing environment, brewing your own beer gives a business a point of difference and another income source.
Many of these brewpubs still buy in other breweries’ beers so they still support the wider brewing industry, but they can offer their customers fresh beer and make styles that suit their customer base.
In County Kildare there are many pubs that produce their own beer by gypsy brewing or using the space in an established brewing facility to make our own beer (like we do in Boyles) — but Kildare has brewpubs as well.
Lock 13 in Sallins opened their brewery on the premise in 2016 producing fresh beer to their customers which they match with the dishes on their menu.
They have recently started to produce cans of their beers; their newest release is a session IPA called 53&6 so now you can pick up their beers to go as well as trying them in the pub.
On the flipside we have also seen breweries open pubs and restaurants around the country. These are places that breweries can sell their beers directly to their customers and see their customers reaction to their products straight away.
Dead Centre brewing in Athlone and Rascals in Inchicore are two great examples of this.
So next time you are thinking of having a pint somewhere new, why not choose a brewpub?
Judith Boyle is a qualified chemist (MSc) and accredited beer sommelier. Susan Boyle is a playwright, artist and drinks consultant. See www.awinegoosechase.com.
Both sisters are proud to be fifth-generation publicans. Their family business is Boyle’s bar and off-licence in Kildare town